If you spent any time watching the news last week, you saw some incredible, heretofore unseen footage of the equipment at your state and local police department’s disposal. Helicopters, four-wheelers, trucks, and good old sedans were out in force by the hundreds. Here’s a closer look at some of the most frequently seen vehicles from Friday’s manhunt:
Massachusetts State Police Incident Command Center
The entire manhunt operation on Friday was located in the city of Watertown, in the parking lot of the Watertown Mall. If you saw aerial photos, you might have noticed the Massachusetts State Police Incident Command Center located to the right of two huge white tents. The Incident Command Center is eighty feet long, and hauled by a Freightliner tractor. The $1.3 million dollar rig was purchased with a Department of Homeland Security Grant in 2004 According to an article in the Metrowest Daily News, the command post’s exterior features a ladder and steps to an 8- by 12-foot rooftop observation deck, bright scene lighting, an outdoor P.A. system and large screen plasma TV for outdoor multimedia updates. A night vision camera can survey the scene from a mast atop the truck that has an antenna receiver to feed live State Police helicopter footage into the post.
The interior features a 50-inch plasma TV, three smaller LCD screens, a fax/copy machine and conference table with Internet hookup for 10 laptop computers. Cabinets line the walls and feature doors that double as huge dry erase boards. The Command Center’s big debut arrived in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention held in Boston that year.
Lenco BearCat LE
If there’s any enduring image of the manhunt, other than the ever-present pizza guy that appeared to be delivering pies all day long, it was the enormous, flat black military-style truck that appeared from time to time, roaming the streets of Watertown in search of Dzhokar Tsarnaev. That rig is a Lenco BearCat LE, and if you happen to be on the lam, the sight of it is guaranteed to loosen your bowels.
The Lenco BearCat LE is produced by Lenco in the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, one of the many towns along the Housatonic River that used to be dominated by General Electric. “BearCat” is just a cool-ass name, but it’s also an acronym for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck. It’s based on a Ford F-550 Super Duty chassis, and powered by either a Triton V-10 or a 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel, with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The steel body is half an inch thick, and the glass is rated to withstand multiple rounds up to .50 caliber. The floors are blast-resistant, and there are specially designed gun ports throughout. The roof features a hatch, which a cool-ass, heavily armored cop pokes out of, adding to the pants-soiling visage of one of these things hauling ass down your city’s streets. The LE features dual air conditioning and accommodations for a team of up to 10.
These things appear to work. In 2010, an offender in Athens, Texas fired 35 rounds from an AK-47 at tactical police without a round entering the BearCat. In June, 2012, the Central Bucks Emergency Response Team took 28 rounds from a high-powered rifle, with similar results.
Lenco produces several versions of the BearCat. LE is primarily used by SWAT and Military Police. The Military Model is similar, but is a four-door model with a turret for .50 caliber or a Dillon Mini Gun. It also features a V-Hull Blast Shield to protect against grenades or IEDs. The LE Model can be optionally equipped with the V-Hull as well. The G3 edition is similar to the LE, but features four-wheel drive. The BearCat Riot Control model includes a Road Warrior-esque hydraulic ram to clear cars and debris, as well as an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) designed to disperse crowds.
Ford Crown Victoria P71
If you watched the coverage of the manhunt and didn’t lust for a P71 Crown Vic, you are officially dead to me. Ford quit building the Crown Victoria in 2011, but these veteran sedans still make up the bulk of any police department’s fleet. The Crown Vic most police departments still use is the second generation of Ford’s full-size sedan originally introduced in 1992. Those “aero” bodied cars eventually gave way to a tougher, more upright version in 1998.
The versions still in use today are all the beneficiaries of a significant redesign in 2003. They have essentially the same sheetmetal as the earlier cars, but the later cars are easy to spot by their high wheel offset. The wheels have an almost flat face with very little shoulder where the tire’s bead seats. The suspension, brakes, steering and frame were all completely revised to be more robust and performance oriented. 2003 also brought on more power thanks to a better airbox design with an 80mm integrated MAF sensor.
If you were watching from out of state, you noticed the Massachusetts State Police department’s distinctive color combination. It’s distinctive for a reason. When I did a story on the department’s cruisers in the 1990s, the public information officer told me that in the early days, motorcycles far outnumbered sedans on the Massachusetts State Police, thanks to its contract with local motorcycle manufacturer Indian in Springfield, Massachusetts. Cars in use in those days – like most cars in general – were black. Without 100,000 candlepower strobe lights, it was difficult for people to identify a Trooper. To make the cars more easily identifiable, the department painted the roof and front doors in the color of the Trooper’s French Blue uniform shirt. The combination has stuck since the late 1940s.